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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina Flub Their Lines on Thanksgiving (VIDEO)

This year, we're betting that 'American Idol' stars Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina are mostly thankful that turkey day is firmly behind them. The Season 10 winner and runner-up both had pretty bad experiences yesterday.

An estimated 50 million viewers were watching as country crooner McCreery was revealed to be lip-syncing at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Meanwhile, Alaina can now join the pantheon of singers -- yes, we mean you Christina Aguilera, Cyndia Lauper and ... um ... Scotty McCreery -- who've flubbed the national anthem on live TV.

Poor old Scotty missed his cue just as the NBC cameras zoomed in for a close-up at at the beginning of 'The Trouble With Girls.' D'oh! For a cringeworthy few seconds -- which probably felt like eternity for him -- we could hear his voice, but he obviously wasn't singing. He caught up at last, but not before millions winced in sympathy.

Performing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' before the Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers game, Alaina started off okay but then seemed to forget the words. Ouch. After singing "What so proudly we hailed," she just stopped halfway through the word "twilight." Silence fell. And lasted just long enough for some of the crowd to start heckling.

Hey, we've all had that rabbit-in-the-headlights moment when your brain freezes and you can't even remember your own name or what you had for breakfast, so let's not be too harsh. Thankfully Alaina manged to keep it together and after a few seconds of silence, picked up the line again with "Whose broad stripes and bright stars", and then managed to sing the rest without incident. Phew.

Later on Alaina tweeted: "Thank you everyone for the kind words. But the truth is I messed up. I'm gonna spend the rest of the day being thankful for all my blessings."

Simon Cowell Talks Howard Stern and 'America's Got Talent'

Ever since Piers Morgan quit the 'America's Got Talent' judging panel rumors have swirled about his possible replacement, and one name that keeps coming up is shock jock Howard Stern. He recently addressed the rumors and reiterated that he's a huge fan of the show, but wouldn't comment on whether he was involved in ongoing negotiations with NBC.

This week the 'New York Post' published a report alleging that Stern's agreed to join the show if certain conditions are met. Such as paying him a whopping $20 million and moving the show from Los Angeles to New York. The 'Post' quotes a source close to the show as saying that 'AGT' boss Simon Cowell is "hellbent" in landing Stern, and that "The talk on the production is that it's practically a done deal."

For his part, Cowell told 'Access Hollywood' that he's a fan of Stern but that nothing's been signed: "I like him. There's a lot of people who make decisions on this stuff. Money's got to work, schedules [have] got to work. There might be a few twists and turns still."

Cowell's an old pro at refusing to be drawn into giving leading answers, and when asked about Stern's alleged huge salary demands he said "I'm sure he does [want $20 million]. Who doesn't? That's not up to me. That's up to [NBC]. I don't write the checks, baby."

He also considered the question of whether 'America's Got Talent' would move production to New York in order to accommodate Stern's commitments to his radio show. "If it's the right thing to do, yeah. I like change. Whatever's right for the show, we'll do."

Stern previously blasted the judges' choices on 'AGT,' saying "If I was a judge on that there, there would be no nonsense whatsoever ... If I was on there, the guy who won last year, whose name I can't even remember [Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.], he would never have won."

Echoing those sentiments, Cowell said "The important thing this year is we've got to find more stars on the show, like we found with [Season 2 'AGT' winner] Terry Fator. I want someone who's going to have a big, big career. They're all going to be under pressure this year to find us stars. That's why you get paid to do the job."

With fellow 'AGT' judge Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel rumored to keen to stay in Losa Angeles, it's possible that Stern could commute to the West Coast for a part-time only gig as judge. Stay tuned for updates.

'Sister Wives' Season Finale Preview: Brown Teens Sound Off on New Baby

On the season finale of 'Sister Wives' (Sun., Nov. 27, 9PM ET on TLC), Robyn's baby, Solomon, is on the way! But what do the other Brown children think about the new addition?

In the preview below, Hunter and Madison express concern about their growing family. Robyn is still new to the clan, will a baby help adjust the family dynamics?

"I don't know what I think about the baby," Madison said. "I don't know if I really feel happy that we're having a baby because, I just don't know."


Monday, 28 November 2011

'The Office' Sneak Peek: Maura Tierney Comes to Scranton

Maura Tierney is making her triumphant return to TV comedy!

Tierney, who spent years as the backbone of NBC's 'ER,' first started turning heads on NBC's sitcom 'NewsRadio.' The versatile actress guest stars on the Dec. 1 episode of 'The Office' (9PM ET on NBC).

In the episode, 'Mrs. California,' Tierney plays Mrs. California, wife to James Spader's character, Robert California. Robert brings her into the office to try and find her a job. Later in the episode Dwight opens a gym in the building.

'The Walking Dead' Season 2, Episode 7 Recap

Hey, zombies are human, too! Well, I guess not, as Shane so eloquently demonstrates with a couple of well placed rounds through the heart. Honestly, why does the voice of reason on this show have to be such an asshole? Yes, Shane has become the voice of reason. And not just because he was 100 percent right about the walkers in the barn being dangerous – I mean, look at the risk Rick and Hershel took while trying to "guide" those two walkers into the barn. But, without Shane, we'd still be watching a show about a group looking for a lost girl in the woods. It took seven episodes to find her. They did find her. At least that's over.

Yes, that was a great ending. I've enjoyed a couple other episodes, but the ending to tonight's half-season finale, if you will, was the first time that I felt any real amount of emotion. If this is a taste of what a post-Darabont 'The Walking Dead' will be like, sign me up. In other words: Things happened!

There was a strange sense of urgency in this episode that I hadn't seen so far this season. The first example was when Glenn explained to the group that there were walkers in the barn: There was absolutely no beating around the bush. "The barn is full of walkers" -- boom! Done! Now off to the fallout. The second example is the relationship between Maggie and Glenn: Maggie is pretty furious at Glenn for the entire episode, but one cliché about how he'd rather she be alive and mad than dead and happy -- boom! Done! OK, sure, this time around, that was a pretty, um, quick change of heart. But who cares? There was a lot going on in this episode and wasting more time on a lovers' spat helps nobody.

Carl shouted, "bullshit!," at Shane. Good for Carl.

Sophia. I have grown to hate Sophia over the last seven episodes because, now, over 54 percent of all episodes ever created of 'The Walking Dead' are about her – even though she's had about three minutes of screen time this season. Granted, that was a great payoff. Was it worth it? Was it worth sacrificing over half of the season for that payoff? I don't think so. I think they could have spent two full episodes searching for her and still have the same emotional resonance of what we experienced at the end of this episode. More, actually.

What if Sophia had disappeared during the fourth episode and not the first? What if the first three episodes of the season were used to build the relationship between Sophia and Carl – really create the sense that there's definitely some puppy love brewing between the two. By the time Carl shouted, "bullshit," at Shane, we would have really understood why. But, instead, we were left with an irrational mother – who has every reason in the world to be irrational – with the rest of the group and the audience giving a collective shrug. But, if we had really gotten to know Sophia over the first part of this season, I really think that the scene of Rick putting a bullet through her head would have delivered an even more emotional sock to the chest.

So! We're off until February. Where do we go from here? Do we just assume that Hershel will evict Rick's group? Is there a chance that Hershel, after watching Rick kill Sophia, will come to the conclusion that, yes, these things are not human any longer. In other words: Rick put his money where his mouth is. His group had just slaughtered what Hershel regarded as friends and family, so there was certainly not even a choice in the matter of Sophia. And what does the group think of Shane? Dale's certainly not a fan. Daryl isn't either, but they seemed to make some amends when Shane was handing out guns. Regardless! Even though the Sophia storyline ended on a high note, narrative wise, the Sophia storyline is officially, thankfully, over. Let's just hope that the post Darabont era of 'The Walking Dead' knows where it's going – or that it at least goes somewhere.

Where Did 'The Walking Dead' Go Wrong? A Few Thoughts on Season 2

My colleague Mike Ryan is recapping 'The Walking Dead' here, and I highly recommend his weekly reviews, but I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on the show's second season below.

By the second half of 'The Walking Dead's' Sunday mid-season finale, I was actively rooting for the zombies.

Say what you will about the flesh-eaters, they know what they want and they briskly go for it. On an increasingly frustrating show that can't quite decide whether it wants to be a character-driven drama or a well-crafted frightfest, the zombies' lack of ambiguity about what they want has been almost refreshing at times.

I'm guessing it wasn't the intention of the show's writers to make me hope that Rick Grimes' crew would be munched by the undead, but too often this season, the humans on the show have been idiotic, annoying or sanctimonious -- sometimes all three. The time spent on Hershel Greene's farm was often a waste, not just of time but of the relatively sturdy momentum the show had cranked up in its short first season.

It didn't have to be this way. I'm betting the group's rural interlude was, at least in part, supposed to get us to care about the show's characters more deeply. But most of the characters were badly served by increasingly ham-fisted attempts at characterizations that merely repeated information we already had. The final scene of the episode was moving (all hail director Michelle MacLaren), but almost every other development made me want to bite someone myself.

By the last third of Sunday's episode, I not only wouldn't have cared if a zombie had munched the former sheriff, I was shouting "Shoot him!" when Dale leveled his gun at Shane's chest.

Now, don't get the impression that I think Dale is the hero of the piece. In this post-apocalyptic world, he thought it would be a good idea to hide the group's weapons where they'd be likely to be damaged or lost? Smooth move, old timer. (I look down at the notes I took during the finale and I find the word "moron" jotted down more than once. I mean, we're not fully in 'Terra Nova' territory, but we're much, much closer than any AMC drama should ever be.)

Of course, Dale (whom I previously liked, believe it or not) is not the main problem with season 2 of 'The Walking Dead.' Shane is certainly one of the show's bigger weak spots, but even he's not the root cause of the show's malaise.

The biggest problem with the first half of season 2 is that it was about two hours of viable storytelling stretched out over seven hours.

Let's just review all the things that could have happened in this batch of episodes: We could have met compelling new characters (and maybe the show could have pruned a few less successful characters); the characters' relationships with each other could have been filled out and given new tensions and shading; we could have gotten some tightly plotted and/or exciting action; toward the end of the season, we could have gotten a few hints on where the story might go from here.

There were occasionally effective bursts of action, but precious little of the other things noted above, and the show's character development was especially frustrating. Sure, Glenn got a few new notes to play in his romance of Hershel's daughter and Andrea got to pick up a handy skill, but in the main, I don't feel I got to know these people more thoroughly. Almost every interaction revealed the maddeningly repetitive information: Dale remained the well-intentioned but manipulative busybody he was last season, Shane was still a hothead who mistook his arrogance for pragmatism, Rick was the reluctant optimist who struggled with being the alleged leader, and Lori continued to be a mostly reactive character (and, because she's woman who didn't take an active role in camp security, she got to do a lot of the drudge work). Hershel himself was a one-dimensional, stubbornly clueless addition to the group, and those living in his oddly quiet compound were even less nuanced.

Even so, all those people may have worked as characters in a two-hour movie (though at some point, some critic needs to do a takedown on the highly questionable gender politics in this world). The problem is, for a show that just aired its 13th episode, all of that amounts to weak sauce.

In any event, I don't find myself especially upset that executive producer Frank Darabont left the show earlier this year. That actually gives me hope that the second half of the season might be better.

If there's one thing I've noticed about film veterans like Darabont is that they apparently believe characters, structures and formats that work in the movies will work on TV. Sometimes they do, but more often, the attention paid to individual episodes or characters is inconsistent or lacking in some fundamental way. It's hard to balance overall arcs, episodic stories and character journeys, especially if the show is an ensemble piece, but that's why the people who are good at doing all those things are usually paid via large truckloads of money. It's really difficult to manage all the competing demands of episodic television -- to give individual hours payoffs while building to an overall destination in which the emotional and even physical stakes for the characters are credible and high -- and those are not skills you generally hone by writing and directing feature films, which require two or three hours of sustained tension and progression, not 12 or 13.

Perhaps new showrunner Glen Mazzara will be able to guide 'The Walking Dead' out of its current rut. I certainly hope so. Allowing character development and philosophical issues to arise as byproducts of taut, well-constructed hourlong stories would be a good place to start. Like another AMC drama, 'Hell on Wheels,' 'The Walking Dead' gives off the impression that it wants to explore Big Ideas, but neither show has a firm grasp of how to do that. It's a case of yet another cable drama putting the ambition cart before the storytelling horse.

Let's face it, we could have skipped from episode 2 to episode 7 of the season without missing much, am I right? It's not that what the show attempted wasn't worth doing, it just didn't nail the landing, despite that heartrending final scene. After its efficient and energetic season opener, the past six episodes of 'The Walking Dead' didn't just attempt to deepen the characters, they also spent time exploring the worth and value of life in a world where most humans are dead. But just as the writers' attempts to give complexity to the characters were ultimately limited, the show's exploration of knotty philosophical ideas was lacking in both rigor and ambiguity.

Remove or reduce the threat of the zombies and you have a show with a lot less tension, and 'The Walking Dead' replaced that tension with meandering debates and simmering disagreements that never went anywhere compelling and rarely drove interesting stories. Regardless of your personal beliefs, I'm betting you came away from this half of the season thinking the show's exploration of what constitutes life and whether it's worth living wasn't all that dramatically compelling or thought-provoking.

It also started out a a cult favorite, but 'Battlestar Galactica' broke through to the mainstream in part by grounding its exploration of moral and political issues in characters who were believably complex and flawed; 'The Walking Dead' hasn't done that. That's not the worst thing in the world -- not every show is going to be anchored by a Laura Roslin or a Bill Adama (though I never doubted why people followed those characters; the same can't be said of the feckless Rick).

But that's OK: 'The Walking Dead' could have been a energetic and occasionally thoughtful B-grade series that put its paper-thin characters through a lot of creatively gruesome adventures and incidents (think 'Revenge,' with fewer society parties and more brain eating). When the group was on the move and still filling out its world in season 1, it did that kind of thing reasonably well. This year, the slow-moving Hershel's farm interlude put a spotlight on 'The Walking Dead's' limitations, which became more apparent as the season progressed.

Sunday's episode was the culmination of everything that wasn't working: the talkiness, the clunky character development, the passivity and bone-headedness of several key characters, the fervent desire on my part that instead of trying to please everyone, Rick would make an actual decision and stick to it. The only character I wasn't vaguely irritated by was T-Dog, but it's hard to be bugged by someone who's gotten so few lines all season.

Lack of screen time wasn't an issue for Shane, a character the show has mightily tried to turn into a man who is tortured by lost love and by what he's done to survive. But you know what? All the attempts to give nuance and depth to the man have failed. I can't stand his smirking face, his vein-popping arrogance and his creepy bullying. Perhaps he's meant to be the fly in the ointment, the character who stirs the pot with his hotheaded ways, but part of the challenge of television is making the audience want to spend time with people who are generally loathsome. Shane is a loathsome individual with whom I do not want to spent time.

As for Rick's quest to be a "leader," I can't honestly understand why anyone would follow him; his relative optimism often comes off as inane and inexplicable. If the man is going to keep telling everyone that life is worth living, he's going to have to come up with a rationale that isn't, essentially, "Well, it just is." As for the group as a whole, as Tom and Lorenzo wrote, I'm having trouble understanding how any of these people have survived this long, given their squabbling, their pettiness and their general inability to focus.

If I sound frustrated, it's because I think 'The Walking Dead' has so much potential. The zombie premise means that tension and surprises are baked into the show's DNA, and when the pacing is cranked up, the show's claustrophobic atmosphere, solid production values and great score make it a rewarding experience. The zombies created by co-executive producer Greg Nicotero and his team are nothing short of awesome, and someone should give a truckload of Emmys to the sound design and sound editing staff; the new squelching and squishing noises they come up with every week are disgustingly effective.

As for the characters, Daryl has proved to be a worthy addition to Rick's group, and his solo quest to find Sophia was one of the season's high points. Certainly Norman Reedus has done his utmost with a relatively narrow character, and though the show drained the search for Sophia of suspense by dragging it out too long, the fact that Daryl cared so much about her occasionally gave that story a gravity it hadn't otherwise earned. (By contrast, Carol's growing passivity over her missing daughter made me eventually dislike her).

Though much of what came before it was frustrating, I can't deny the power of the final scene of Sunday's episode, in which the characters saw Sophia come out of the barn. Finally, 'The Walking Dead' was showing, not telling. Finally, a wordless scene captured the heartbreak that hadn't been even remotely conveyed in a dozen debates about life and death.

It was a powerful moment -- all the more powerful for embodying the characters' concerns with specificity and spareness. If I hadn't cared about Sophia before, I did in that moment. It simply worked.

Let's hope that tremendously effective moment is a sign of things to come. There's a good show in here somewhere. Let's hope that when the second season resumes Feb. 12, somebody revives it.

'Once Upon a Time' Season 1, Episode 5 Recap (VIDEO)

Though I had an embarrassingly extensive collection of Disney movies as a child (who am I kidding, I still have them), Pinocchio was never among the VHS tapes I wore out beyond repair. Because of this, the idea of an episode centered around Jiminy Cricket didn't exactly leave me hopping with anticipation.

Still, 'Once Upon a Time' already proved that it is adept at subverting expectations in its first four episodes, and 'That Still Small Voice' proved to be an undeniably satisfying hour of television, deepening our understanding of Archie/Jiminy's character and giving us some welcome development in Mary Margaret and David's tragic romance. I don't know about you, but I really could watch a whole hour of those two playing hangman and innocently flirting and need nothing else from the show.

Thanks to our flashbacks to fairytale land, we discovered that Jiminy and his parents -- played by the always-fantastic Harry Groener and Carolyn Hennessy -- were travelling con-artists, who had a number of impressive tricks with which to scam all manner of unsuspecting folks.

As with Snow White's backstory, the writer (in this case, Whedon alum Jane Espenson) tossed out any notions we might have had for a twee or predictable past, instead using Jiminy's guilt about his parents' lack of conscience to justify how overdeveloped his own would later become. It stands to reason that a boy who once felt trapped by his family's questionable code of ethics would go out of his way to be a beacon of honesty for others who had lost their way.

When the young boy who gave Jiminy his umbrella (and helped set his moral compass straight) turned out to be the boy that Jiminy inadvertently orphaned, I was foolishly predicting that it would somehow be Pinocchio with a bastardized backstory, and that cricket-Jiminy would lead him to Geppetto to raise. Discovering that the boy was actually Geppetto himself was an unexpectedly poignant moment (yes, I cried), as was the inclusion of the wishing star and the Blue Fairy. And now we know where the creepy dolls in Mr. Gold's pawn shop come from.

One thing that wasn't so clear was what Jiminy was doing with Rumplestiltskin in the first place -- it seemed as though he was giving the imp his stolen wares in exchange for gold thread, but it mostly seemed to be a bit of an easy writing fix to get Jiminy into a room with someone who could tempt him with an escape route from his parents, albeit one that would undeniably "come with a price." Similarly, I don't think we needed to see Mr. Gold's pawn shop just to fit in a shot of the creepy dolls; I certainly remembered them from the last episode, so I would have preferred that the producers give the audience a little more credit, instead of needing to spoon-feed us the familiar imagery.

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Emma and Regina were still locked in a battle of alpha mom posturing, even when Henry was in mortal danger lost down a sinkhole. It was nice to see Archie gradually regaining his sense of self in our world as well as his confidence in fairytale land, and despite Regina's anvil-tastic threats of taking away his home and basically turning him into a bug, I did appreciate her warning that the only roof he'd have over his head would be his umbrella. It was always one of Jiminy's most memorable possessions in 'Pinocchio,' and it reinforced the idea that as long as the little cricket had his conscience and his umbrella to keep the rain off his head, he would be content with life, which was a beautiful message to send.

Archie isn't quite that unfettered yet (he still has Pongo to think about, after all!), but it was great to see him standing up to Regina, especially when he used a potential custody battle as leverage against her.

Speaking of Regina -- it was interesting to see her finally displaying some true emotion towards Henry, with unmistakable tears in her eyes at the prospect of losing him. We inevitably paint her as the villain in all this thanks to her fairytale alter-ego, but most of the time, her actions in Storybrooke truly do come from a place of overprotective care more than malice, and she undoubtedly does love her adopted son, even if she struggles to show it. That doesn't excuse the bone-headed decision to use explosives to get inside a sinkhole, though; there's no justifying the insanity of that plot point.

Even though they only shared a few scenes together, Mary Margaret and David were once again my favorite part of the episode, from their sweet game of hangman (and David's insistence that he would never have let Mary lose) to their conversation by the lake when David insisted that Mary was the only part of the world that felt true or right. Those crazy kids are just made for each other!

It's also refreshing that Kathryn is being portrayed as a sympathetic character (unlike the nagging princess she was in 'Snow Falls') so that, as Mary pointed out, crushing on her husband doesn't feel as easy as it could otherwise. I can't wait for next week's Charming-centric episode, which should further deepen their relationship in both Storybrooke and fairytale land.

I only counted one "kid" from Emma tonight -- but a whole mess of flasks in the final scene. If you're not going to commit to the drinking game, 'Once,' then don't play at all!

But the biggest question remains: what is at the bottom of that sinkhole? Was it Snow White's glass coffin, or somehow part of her palace?

Peter Goes to War Against the Amish on 'Family Guy' (VIDEO)

When Meg found herself falling for an Amish boy, it sparked a feud between his father and Peter on 'Family Guy' (Sun., 9PM ET on FOX). When the Amish father actually did Peter's chores for him, to rob him of the joy, it was time to bring out the big guns.

Unfortunately, Peter learned that as fast as you can blow up a barn, an Amish community can raise another one in its place. Sure, it was one of the more obvious gags, but it was nevertheless funny watching that same footage play over and over again as Peter tried different ways to blow up the barn.

In the end, through the power of understanding and love, the kids came between their fathers, and Meg's new love chose the simple life among the Amish over running away with Meg. You didn't think they were going to let Meg be happy, did you? Especially after she spent an uncomfortable amount of time getting dumped on -- quite literally -- by a horse?

Kris Humphries Freaks Out Over Naked Yoga on 'Kourtney and Kim Take New York' (VIDEO)

Are you ready to watch a marriage fall apart? E! certainly hopes so, as we get to see the first and last days of wedded bliss(?) between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries unfold on the new season of 'Kourtney and Kim Take New York' (Sun., 10PM ET on E!).

Right away, it was obvious the couple were not on the same page about a lot of things.

When Kourtney convinced Kim to take a naked yoga class, the girls' reaction was to laugh uncontrollably during the session as the instructor strode around the room naked. But when Kris came home to see the session unfolding, he completely flipped his lid.

He called it "disgusting," called the instructor "a stripper" and said he "almost threw up." It was more than Kim could take, calling him out for being rude to the man.

"How rude is it that there's a naked guy in my house when I walk home," Kris said. "I felt uncomfortable when I walked in."

Clearly, when Kris feels uncomfortable, he wants everyone else to feel the way that he does. No matter whose side you stand on in this particular argument, it was a testament that already these two have no idea how to communicate their differences, and the bombs just kept coming.

Kris didn't like Mason waking him up, didn't like Kim being such a neat-freak, didn't like doing press, and ultimately decided he didn't like living in New York. So just like that, he decided to head back to Minnesota to train. So they're off to a great start.

Friday, 18 November 2011

'Burn Notice' Creator Matt Nix Talks Game-Changing Season Finale and More

This week's Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast has a different format: Ryan was out of town, so, on my own, I spoke to 'Burn Notice' creator and executive producer Matt Nix for over an hour. (Don't worry, we'll have a regular podcast, probably with a different special guest, later in the week.)

Forgive me for my enthusiasm, but I really think parts of this podcast could be of interest to wide variety of TV fans, even those who don't necessarily watch the USA Network show.

Toward the end of the podcast, at about the 55-minute mark, I asked Nix to do something writer/creator Shawn Ryan ('The Shield,' 'Terriers') has done in previous Talking TV podcasts: I asked him to talk about his "beefs" with TV or the making of it. That got Nix started on a self-deprecating riff about those who take to the Internet to critique episodic problems that occasionally afflict his show.

He first acknowledged that he frequently gets the credit for whatever goes right on 'Burn Notice,' even the things that accidentally went better than expected. But then, laughing frequently, Nix talked about how about those who think he hasn't noticed 'Burn Notice's' flaws couldn't possibly hate them as much as he does.

"I've watched that episode, like, 10 times," Nix said, hypothetically addressing those Internet commenters or critics. "I hate that [problem] so much more than you an possibly imagine! And by the way, you missed 10 ways that it sucked! ...That's the only thing I've been thinking about for an entire month."

That led to a wider discussion of money and ambition, especially as they relate to the realm of cable TV. So if you don't watch 'Burn Notice,' you might want to listen to the last 25 minutes of the podcast in order to hear Nix's thoughts on those matters. As I've noted in other 'Burn Notice' features, Nix has a mind that is very much like spy Michael Westen's -- he's good at analyzing things and taking them apart in ways that are intelligent and entertainingly droll.

What comes before may be of interest as well, in that Nix talks in depth about how he's tried to keep fresh a show that is now in the home stretch of its fifth season. The key, as Nix says, is to evolve the basic 'Burn Notice' structures and characters while staying true to the show's tone and the soul of its premise. (We also talked about details such as the show's fifth-season finale; there's more on that below as well.)

The show's lead character, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), is a little like a superhero, in that there are very few challenges he can't meet. As Nix noted, when someone is that powerful and capable, "you've got to pick holes in that."

One of the ways 'Burn Notice' has done that is with recurring adversaries who have reflected some part of Westen's personality or his struggles to be more connected to those around him. As Nix recalled, the ruthless Larry (Tim Matheson) tried to draw out Michael's dark side, and Brennen (Jay Karnes) was as smart and inventive as Michael, thus quite formidable as an opponent. Neither really understood or gave much credence to Michael's better tendencies, though Season 2's Victor (Michael Shanks), who started out as an enemy, ended up as someone whose personal story was very resonant for Michael.

Anson Fullerton, a new and versatile villain very well played by Jere Burns, "is probably the most powerful expression" of the show's tendency to give Michael opponents who reflect the dilemmas Michael faces. As Nix and I discussed, in the years since he unwillingly ended up in Miami, Michael has formed a lot of attachments -- the ex-spy is now close (or as close as he can be) to his girlfriend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), his best bud, Sam (Bruce Campbell), his mother, Madeleine (Sharon Gless) and recent friend/Team Westen recruit Jesse (Coby Bell).

But by framing Fi for murders she didn't commit, Anson has put the ex-spy's most precious relationship in danger. 'Burn Notice' wavers whenever a problem isn't personal for Michael, and this dilemma is about as personal as things get. What's worse for Michael (but good for the show) is that, given that Anson knows so much about Michael's psychology and history, Anson always knows Mikey's next move. Naturally, he figures prominently in the next four episodes, which close out 'Burn Notice's' fifth season (it has already been renewed for a sixth).

Having all those personal relationships "come with a cost," and all that will come to a head in the season 5 finale, which is one of his favorite episodes of the show, Nix said, in part because it's different from anything the show has ever done before. It was directed by 'Die Hard 2' helmer Renny Harlin (in his second stint directing the show) and guest stars Kristanna Loken, Eric Roberts and Dean Cain, and, according to Nix, it has dynamics that are unusual for the show.

"Things get very tense in the second half of the season and our villain is very formidable and good at seeing around corners, so there's a lot of scale in the finale -- there's a big cast," Nix said. "It's shot really well, the stakes are incredibly high and the characters pay very, very big prices."

That scale could be seen as the culmination of the expansion of the show's world. As Nix reflected, in the show's early days, we usually saw Fi, Michael and Sam on a mission together, attacking the same problem and coordinating closely with each other. "They might as well have been in each other's heads," Nix said. But these days, 'Burn Notice' has expanded its roster with more characters "who can carry the story forward," which also allows various people to have "have different moral perspectives" on what is happening.

And thing will evolve even more next year, Nix said. In the show's next season, the whole "burned" aspect of the show will be gone for good. "Next year, we get to be officially done with all of that. Anson's not 'pretend' the last one [of the conspiracy that burned Michael], he's the last one," Nix said.

Though things will change for Michael in season 6, Nix said the DNA of the show won't change radically: Michael will always have a big problem to solve or formidable adversary to face off against, and the roots of those big challenges will always matter to him personally. Those building blocks won't change, Nix said.

He said he's toying with the idea of setting more episodes abroad, when it makes sense to do so, but he added that 'Burn Notice' is never going to be a globe-hopping adventure hour. "What the show is about deeply is Michael Westen, the guy" and his evolution from detached espionage operative into a more fully rounded person. It will be largely set in Miami and Michael will still dole out handy spy tips via voiceover.

As Nix said, "We don't want to violate that contract with the audience."

Below are USA's descriptions for the next episodes of 'Burn Notice' (and below that is info on getting this week's Nix podcast):

'Necessary Evil,' Nov. 17: "Michael runs point on a CIA rescue mission involving a scientist kidnapped by an African warlord. Sam and Jesse go undercover as microchip specialists but quickly get in over their heads. Meanwhile, someone close to Madeline is harboring big secrets."

'Depth Perception,' Dec. 1: "Fiona and Jesse head to the Cayman Islands for a financial errand for Anson. Sam has a surprise reunion with Beatriz ('The Fall of Sam Axe'), whose newspaper articles have made her the target of a murderous Russian spy. Michael has to trust Anson's profiling ability to track the Russian before he gets to Sam and Beatriz."

'Acceptable Loss,' Dec. 8: "Jesse recruits the team to help a friend take down his boss, who's using diplomatic immunity to smuggle blood diamonds into the U.S. Michael needs Pearce's help transferring a dangerous prisoner who may have information on Anson." Guest stars include Kristanna Loken, Robert Wisdom and Gregg Henry.

'Fail Safe,' Dec. 15 (season finale): No episode summary is available, but Cain, Roberts and Loken guest star. TV Line has more intel the characters the actors will play.

You can grab the podcast from iTunes (where you can also subscribe) or you can grab this week's discussion from the Talking TV home site.

Full archives of every 'Talking TV' podcast are available here. The entire 'Talking TV' archives are also available on iTunes. Our RSS feed is here.

Cheryl Burke on 'Dancing With the Stars': 'It's Just a Show, Not a Real Competition'

Rob Kardashian isn't letting big sister Kim Kardashian's divorce drama get in the way of his dancing, says his 'Dancing With the Stars' partner, Cheryl Burke. Instead, he's focused on making it to the finals, a feat he never thought possible back in week one.

"He's gained so much confidence in himself," Burke tells AOL TV. "He's not even the same guy that he was in week one, and he's just proved to everybody that he is really talented."

Now, Kardashian is one of four celebrities vying for the Mirror Ball trophy and eternal ballroom glory, but he's not letting the pressure get to him. "He likes to keep everything light," says Burke. "It's just a show, not a real competition."

With the semi-finals kicking off this week (Mon., Nov. 14 at 8PM ET), AOL TV chatted with Burke about Kardashian's improvement, the judges' harsh criticisms and her close friendship with the Kardashian family.

It's the start of semi-finals week, so how is Rob doing in rehearsals?

Great. We had a busy week learning the Argentine tango, samba and cha cha. We have to learn it all in four days, so it's stressful. We are all stressed out right now. That's a lot of dancing to do.

What's going to be the most difficult challenge for Rob this week?

There's a relay cha cha dance that we have to do, which is 35 seconds of cha cha for each celebrity. Surprisingly, I'm more stressed than he is. He just knows that he can do it, and when he puts his mind to something, he does it. The stress of learning three dances isn't getting to him as much as it's getting to me.

Week after week, I call Rob the most improved dancer because you can tell that he's really trying and seeing results. How do you think he has improved since week one?

He completely transformed. Not just as a dancer but as a person too. He's gained so much confidence in himself, and he's really just proved to everybody that he is talented and a great person. [His attitude] has completely changed. In the beginning, he didn't know what to expect. He was really shy, and he seemed like he wasn't into it, but as the weeks went by we worked on building his confidence up. The judges also helped by letting him know how much he's been improving. He's been seeing his results, so I think it's just really transformed him.

The judges have been telling Rob that he needs to watch his bum, so that it doesn't stick out. How do you address that in rehearsals?

You know, the Latin dances are harder for him, but the judges have been really great with him by telling him what he needs to work on, and he really does take their criticisms seriously. It's been a struggle, but he really is trying.

The judges' criticisms can be confusing because it's not clear what they're judging on. Do you think that there should be some sort of standardized judging system?

At times, I'm not sure if the celebrities are being compared to each other or if they're being compared to themselves. I just want the judges to give criticism that we can take back and work on. Sometimes they can be harsh, but you just need to remind yourself that this is a television show, and of course there are going to be ridiculous comments and criticisms from the judges. You don't want them to say that, but at the end of the day it is a television show, so you kind of have to take it for what it's worth.

Unlike some of the other couples, you and Rob seem really close and you've worked really well together this season. How does he compare with your other 'Dancing' partners?

We're really close, and we'll stay friends for sure after the show. He's one of my favorite partners. There's just no drama with him. A lot of people change when they get to the semi-finals and become really competitive, but Rob's just stayed the same. He likes to have fun in rehearsals. That's what makes him so cool. He's just a normal kid.

Being that it's semi-finals week, are you getting competitive with the other pros?

Not at all. It's not about the dancer because we're always on the show. I think at the end of the day, we root for each other. We really want everyone to do well. With the celebrities this season, it's not like that either. Sometimes it is, and it gets really competitive, but Rob is friends with everybody. He's making people laugh, yelling in the studio room and going into the other rehearsal rooms to make them laugh. He likes to keep everything light. It's just a show, not a real competition.

Now, don't hate me, but every week in my recaps, I refer to you as a mini-Kardashian. You just blend in so well with that family. Maybe that's why you and Rob work so well together?

People are actually starting to say that I sound like them! I knew his family before he signed on to do the show. I did go to Kim's wedding because Kim and I are good friends and we have been since she was on the show with Mark [Ballas]. Now, we're all really close. I get along great with everyone in that family.

My favorite Kardashian is baby Mason. I think I'd get along great with him.

Oh my god! He's so cute. Just the most adorable kid ever.


'Dancing With the Stars' Season 13 Semi-Finals: Hope's Attitude and J.R.'s Injury

After tonight, I'm not sure the 'Dancing With the Stars' judges want Maks to continue on this season -- or any other season. Things got pretty awkward during the judges' critiques of Hope Solo and Maks' sexy-but-clumsy Argentine tango. When Carrie Ann started to criticize their sloppy lifts, she called out Maks for smiling.

"That's fine, Maks, you can go ahead and keep smiling," she said, thinking that the professional looked a little too smug for her liking. Maks looked visibly stunned. I was pretty stunned too. I'm still not sure what she meant. Was he smiling inappropriately?

Well, this didn't exactly go over well with Hope, who, after weeks of tension, exploded. "Maks was smiling because we should be smiling," the soccer star told Brooke Burke. "So Carrie Ann, thank you, Maks was smiling. This is my partner. Finally, we're happy!" Maks tried to stop his partner from making his previous mistake, but the damage was already done.

Unfortunately, for Hope, Carrie Ann wasn't smiling when she gave the pair an 8.

You know what? I have to agree. While I don't think Hope was at all graceful during her lifts, Maks wasn't smiling out of spite. There's some serious tension between Maks and the judges, and it makes me think he might not be returning for Season 14.

Hope hit her breaking point this week -- in more ways than one. She was seriously breaking. After years of being a pro athlete, we find out that Hope's shoulder is shot. She even had to use one of the morphine shots she's been saving for the Olympics to get through rehearsals. Unfortunately, for Hope, it didn't help her dancing.

The soccer star's paso doble was clumsy and stompy, but at least it excelled in attitude.

Meanwhile, it looks like Maks had a stern talking to behind-the-scenes because when he's not saying anything or trying to stop his partner from saying anything, he's giving some pretty plastic responses. "Thank you, everybody, for everything that you've ever said or did," a cheeky Maks told the ballroom crowd. To which Tom Bergeron replied, "It's Stepford Maks!" Nice one, Tom.

Poor Maks can't win. When he says something nice, it's criticized, and when he smiles, he receives a lashing from Carrie Ann. And the worst part? He and Hope received the lowest score for their relay cha cha, which, honestly, wasn't the worst of the night.

As much as I hate to admit it, the paso doble also claimed an injured J.R. Martinez. Last week's golden boy fell from perfection this week with a so-so paso doble. J.R. and Karina had a nasty fall during rehearsals. Seriously, I flinched every time they showed it -- which was about six times. Not to mention that he twisted his ankle in the aftermath, which ultimately affected his usually fancy footwork.

"It was more zero than Zorro," said Len. Ouch. Looks like J.R.'s going to have rely on his fans this week to carry him to the finals.

And then came the Argentine tango. It was a great effort from the injured actor. In fact, if he hadn't been wincing through it, I probably wouldn't have known he was injured. That is, until the dramatic ending. He was visibly distraught and upset, and it was clear that he just wanted everything to be perfect. He certainly redeemed himself with his Argentine tango, but it was clear that J.R. wasn't at his physical best this week, and he let the pain get to him.

However, his choreography and lifts seemed more challenging than some of his competitors' -- like Hope and Rob. J.R. obviously has the potential to win the Mirror Ball, but he'll need to conquer his injured ankle and not let it affect him like it did this week. For the first week that I can remember, J.R. wasn't his usual cheery self.

If it weren't so painfully clear that the judges -- and producers -- of 'DWTS' want to get rid of Hope and Maks, I'd be concerned for our Army veteran.

Once again, Ricki showed her weight insecurities during rehearsals, but all seemed forgotten on the dance floor. Ricki -- or is it Big Bird now? -- returned to the top with her furiously fast samba. It even earned the former talk show host her first 10 -- from Len! She then earned her second 10 from Len for her Argentine tango.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Ricki works hard, and Derek is a phenomenal choreographer. Their Argentine tango was just as solid as their 'Psycho' tango in week 4, but from week 1 it was pretty clear that these two would be in the finals. Now, we just need to see who will join them.

And based off this week's performances, it's pretty clear that it will be Rob and Cheryl.

Rob and Cheryl brought the Rio Carnival to the ballroom this week, and although the float was a terribly tacky idea, Rob proved that he's a serious contender for the Mirror Ball. His samba was fun and flirty, but most of all, his footwork was on point. Rob scored his highest score of the competition with his booty-shaking samba, earning his first 10 of the season from Carrie Ann. It even brought mama Kris Jenner to tears. His one-year-old nephew, Mason Dash Disick, however, remained unfazed.

Rob and Cheryl's Argentine tango was passionate and precise. Out of all of the contestants, he really has come the furthest in terms of skill and ability. As much as it pains me to say this, if I were J.R., I'd be feeling a little bit frustrated at this point. Believe me, I want nothing more than to see a J.R./Ricki showdown in the finals, but there's no denying that the Kardashians have a rabid fan base.

One of the real highlights of tonight's semi-finals (other than Kermit's spastic freestyle) was getting to know the contestants' backstories. Basically, everyone has a sob story -- even Rob Kardashian -- but it was hard not to feel a little overly emotional listening to J.R.'s story.

Every week, there are a few commenters that seem to think J.R. will win the Mirror Ball because of sympathy. I'm not denying that. In fact, I think that we all agree that 'DWTS' is more a popularity contest than a dancing competition, but I have to ask: Have they seen J.R. dance? Week after week, he brings everything he has to that dance floor. In terms of skill and work ethic, he's right up there with leaderboard topper Ricki Lake.

We also learned that Kourtney, Kim and Khloe used to dress their baby brother up in women's clothing -- and Brooke wasn't going to let him forget it. Not only that, but once again, Kris Jenner makes it clear that 'DWTS' made her son a man. Obviously, nothing can turn a 24-year-old Kardashian boy into a man like glitzy costumes and extreme booty-shaking.

Side note: Is it bad that I can't look at Kris Jenner without seeing Kristen Wiig? I'm sure I'm not the only one, right?

Now for my picks. Although he had a rough night, J.R. has too much talent -- and too much support -- to not make it to the finals. Ricki and Derek have been the favorites since day one, so they're definitely in. And then there was Rob. You can hate him for being a Kardashian, but you have to admit the boy man has improved, and there's no doubt that those Kardashian fans will help him through to the finals.


'Doctor Who' Movie in the Works From 'Harry Potter' Director

'Doctor Who' ... the movie?

Variety reports that David Yates -- the director behind four of the 'Harry Potter' movie adaptations, including both parts of 'The Deathly Hallows' -- is looking to develop a big-screen version of the time-traveling Doctor.

The new film would not be connected with the long-running series.

If you don't have three hours to kill reading one of Wikipedia's largest pages, check out AOL TV's 'Doctor Who' coverage and guide to the five essential 'Doctor Who' episodes.

Plus, consider this the CliffsNotes version: 'Doctor Who' is the longest-running, most successful sci-fi show in history, and a touchstone of British pop culture. The Doctor is a universe-exploring alien who travels through the cosmos in his TARDIS, a time machine shaped like a police box. He is usually accompanied by a spunky female companion and his greatest enemy is the Daleks, a race of cybernetic aliens housed in roaming personalized tanks. Doctor Who also has the ability to regenerate his body when close to death, which is a handy way of explaining away the eleven actors who have portrayed the part since 1963. The show currently airs on BBC One in the UK and stateside on BBC America, with star Matt Smith.

As we mentioned before, the movie version will be a completely new version not connected to the TV show's long mythology. Yates explains that you "have to put that aside and start from scratch." 'Doctor Who' was adapted for movies twice before in the 1960s with Peter Cushing (and some liberal changes to the mythos), but the BBC has struggled to get a cinematic version off its feet for years.

Yates is currently working with BBC Worldwide on finding a screenwriter, hinting that 'Harry Potter' scripter Steve Kloves might get the job: "We want a British sensibility, but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly."

If 'Doctor Who' turns into a full-blown 'Potter' reunion behind-the-scenes, expect the "Daniel Radcliffe as the Doctor!" fan-campaign to start up pretty soon (if it hasn't already).

This also gives us an excuse to post the theme song, which we'll gladly take.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

'Gossip Girl' Season 5, Episode 7 Recap: Top 5 OMG Moments (VIDEO)

Ah, a masquerade, a staple of CW storytelling and a delicious excuse for all manner of identity-switching shenanigans; it was only a matter of time before 'Gossip Girl' exhumed their stock of fancy facewear and started a new scandal or two.

The episode had more than a passing resemblance to last season's masked ball outing, 'The Witches of Bushwick,' another installment in which Serena and her fabulous blonde locks were the subjects of identity theft. (At least this week's episode didn't see her roofied and unconscious in a grimy motel in Queens.)

Diana proved herself to be a master manipulator capable of rivaling even Blair Waldorf, while our stubborn Queen B. found herself too fixated on Chuck's nonexistent scheme to recognize her own feelings.

Join us after the jump for our five favorite moments from episode seven.

1. Blair and Chuck's Dangerous Liaison
Methinks the lady doth protest too much; instead of taking Chuck's newfound conscience at face value this week, Blair was instead determined to prove that our favorite Basshole was trying to somehow wheedle his way back into her good graces -- even when he was nowhere near her. Though I can't deny that Chuck's track record for turning over a new leaf has been patchy at best, Blair's suspicions are clearly less about Chuck's actual motivations and more about her own conflicted feelings. A loving and committed royal-to-be would certainly have no need to stalk her ex around town, trying to catch him in a compromising position, let alone goad him into a passionate kiss.

Blair may have been trying to prove Chuck's weakness this week, but in actuality, she only exposed her own. Lucky for her, Chuck's fresh sense of chivalry prevented him from pointing out that Blair was the one pursuing him, allowing her the hollow victory of forcing him to acknowledge his feelings for her -- feelings she was already well aware of anyway. As Gossip Girl pointed out at the episode's end, Chuck is clearly still wearing the mask that Blair needs him to wear (that of the villain), but I'm disappointed in her behavior this week. As Chuck is making great strides forward in changing his manipulative attitude, Blair seems to be regressing back to her season one self, cruelly toying with his emotions to justify her own -- even as she denies them. She needs to decide what she wants, and not just go running to Chuck because she and Louis are having problems. I must admit, I'm enjoying the way that Chuck is finally evolving this season -- it's long overdue and proving to be one of the most compelling aspects of the narrative.

2. Chivy's Double Indemnity
Poor Chivy has herself so tangled up in lies, I'm surprised she even remembers what her real name is. As if matters weren't complicated enough between her and Nate, her trouble was only compounded when ex-boyfriend Max coincidentally arrived in town and inevitably hit it off with Serena. Sure, locking lips with Nate isn't a particularly disagreeable way to spend an afternoon, but since it inadvertently cost her the job at the Spectator, her semi-boyfriend and her ex-boyfriend in one fell swoop, it perhaps wasn't the best way to go incognito. I'm often torn between finding the character sympathetic and finding her a total snooze, but I think this week she fell into the latter category -- I was glad to see Max shoot her down, given the abrupt way she abandoned him in favor of following Serena back to New York. It's only a matter of time before her secret truly comes out now that Max knows the truth, and I'm eagerly anticipating the fireworks.

3. Serena Becomes a Pawn
Poor, sweet Serena -- even when she thinks she's being proactive and taking charge of her life, she's actually being pushed around Diana's board like a trusting pawn. It's obvious that Diana's playing the long game, going a very circuitous route through Nate and Charlie to garner Serena's sympathies (and removing a few more pieces from the game while she's at it), but now our blonde bombshell is ideally placed to go head to head with Gossip Girl, which was our media mogul's evil plan all along. Is Serena really thick-skinned enough to take on her loose-lipped virtual nemesis? Only time will tell.

4. So Does Nate
Pretty/dumb Nate is apparently smart enough to realize that he's being played, but not quite smart enough to recognize that the player is still playing him for a fool; instead of figuring out that Diana is the puppetmaster behind almost every twist and turn at 'Sleep No More' (and how awesome does that look, BTW?) he blamed Chivy for being the manipulative one ... It's a good thing you're so attractive, Archibald. But it seems that even Diana has someone pulling her strings; Nate's nefarious grandfather William made a classy, limo-bound appearance, thanking Diana for rehabbing Nate's flighty image. But why would Grandpa van der Bilt care what Serena's up to? We can't imagine he gets too much attention from Gossip Girl, but there's obviously more to him than meets the eye.

5. Dan's Literary Pity Party
If we thought Dan's novel would give him more depth, we were sadly mistaken -- it seems that Lonely Boy is more lonely now than ever, and even more self-absorbed. Instead of embracing the amazing opportunity he's been given in having his book published and hitting the Times bestseller list at all, he's seemingly more interested in wallowing in his "failure" and shirking his responsibilities on his book tour. For someone who has often chided Serena for her unreliability, he's certainly taken a few pages from her old playbook, of late. Still, at least his pouting gave Rufus something to do and an excuse to get out of his apartment (and back to the other, I guess, but beggars can't be choosers). Papa H. had some wisdom to impart, but I think a smack around the ear would've worked much better for Dan -- right now, he's more of a downer than Little J was. Here's hoping that wake up call can inject a little charisma back into the character, because this week his scenes were a total buzzkill.

'Boardwalk Empire' Gangster Index, Week 8: Nucky's Playing Chess, Not Checkers

After losing his closest allies and surviving both a political coup and an honest-to-god assassination attempt, Nucky Thompson finally walked away from his post as Atlantic City's Treasurer in 'Two Boats and a Lifeguard.' But don't count him out yet: the resignation was merely a chess move, made so he can live and scheme another day. Darmody & co. may be rejoicing at their new opportunity to dominate Atlantic City's liquor trade, but you can bet they haven't seen the last of Nucky.

To keep track of the deals, deception and death, AOL TV is continuing our weekly 'Boardwalk Empire' gangster index, a guide to who's up and who's down among HBO's organized criminals.

Check out the index to find out how your favorite liquor-slinging sociopath fared this week ...

Stock Up: Nucky Thompson. After getting some solid advice from Arnold Rothstein, Nucky walked away from the job he'd held for decades. But even as he stepped down, Nucky was already plotting his next move, urging Chalky White to stage a strike of Atlantic City's black workers, which would effectively shut the city down while proving that, without Nucky, things fall apart. He's also reviving his connections with the IRA, and asked Owen to set him up a meeting with McGarrigle in Ireland. Something tells us the cache of automatic machine guns he stumbled on before his meeting with Rothstein and Torrio might come in handy somewhere down the line.

Stock up: Jimmy Darmody. Atlantic City's bootlegging trade is now his, but heavy is the head that wears the crown. He christened his era as Atlantic City's bootlegger-in-chief by throwing one of colleagues, Mickey Doyle, off a balcony at a party. He gave a rousing speech to his cohorts hailing the dawn of a new era after Nucky resigned, which earned him the Lebron-esque nickname of "Prince James." And he came clean to his wife about what he's been up to lately, which might go some way towards decreasing his mother's influence on him.

Stock up: Arnold Rothstein. The ultimate portrait of calm, consistency, and long-term thinking. He's playing Nucky on both sides, offering him counsel while doing little to dissuade his young proteges Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lanksy from moving against him. Rothstein has effective insurance policies in place for whatever goes down in Atlantic City.

Stock down: Gillian Darmody. Jimmy realizes now that he let his mother push him into sanctioning the ill-thought-out hit against Nucky, and he's kicking himself over it. Next time she starts to spout off platitudes about "victory having a thousand fathers," Jimmy may not be so receptive. But at least she's still got her "pillow talk" with Luciano.

Stock down: Chalky White. Returned after a brief hiatus as the pawn in Nucky's latest scheme. If he convinces Atlantic City's black workers to strike and shut down the city at Nucky's behest, what's in it for his people? With Nucky no longer in power, will they actually have their grievances addressed, or just face more retribution from the Klan?

Stock down: Eli Thompson. He's been subpoenaed by the federal prosecutor in her investigation of Nucky, and while it's unclear whether he's a target of the investigation or a witness against his brother, it's bad news either way. Let's recall that he was intimately involved with the murder of Margaret Schroeder's abusive husband, which the prosecutor seemed interested in. While Eli is all too willing to roll over on his brother, it's hard to imagine him keeping his job as Sheriff once it becomes clear to the feds how he's abused his power. And whereas Nucky has built up enough connections and money to survive without his job, it's fair to ask: without his Sheriff gig, what does Eli really have left?

Stock down: Mickey Doyle. You wondered how long Doyle could hang with the big boys while cracking bad jokes and giggling like a schoolgirl. The answer turned out to be not very long, as Jimmy sent him on a long fall off a short balcony.


Bill Maher Hopes the Republicans Won't Do Anything Silly While His Show's on Hiatus (VIDEO)

Friday night's episode of 'Real Time With Bill Maher' was the last show of its fall season, and coincided perfectly with Rick Perry's "Oops!" debate gaffe and the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal. Maher went on 'Good Morning America' (weekdays, 7AM ET on ABC) to dish on the Republican field, and voiced his hope that the candidates would refrain from doing embarrassing things until his show returns in January.

The first thing George Stephanopoulos asked about was the $1 million to $1 bet Maher made with Michelle Caruso Cabrera that Herman Cain wouldn't end up as the 2012 Republican nominee. Maher defended his bet by noting, "This is a guy who's wearing a pimp hat through a ... sex scandal," and also brought up the fact that Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan was written by "his branch manager at Wells Fargo." When Stephanopoulos reminded Maher that Cain is still leading, Maher responded, "That's just because they hate Mitt Romney," and Stephanopoulos couldn't help but agree with his assessment.

After a few quick jabs about Newt Gingrich surging and being considered "the intellectual of the Republican party," Maher joked that since 'Real Time' is off until mid-January, he hopes that "Perry and Cain and Bachmann don't say anything stupid while I'm gone ... I mean, what are the chances of that?" A million to one, maybe?

Barney and Robin Make a Mistake by Sleeping Together on 'HIMYM,' Or Was It? (VIDEO)

A sitcom reaches a point in its life cycle where they don't have to strive so hard for the punchline, or even to get the laugh. 'How I Met Your Mother' (Mon., 8PM ET on CBS) proved that this week with Barney and Robin's romantic struggles.

None of their moments together were particularly funny, but because we're so invested in these characters and we care about their well-being, we don't care. Luckily, we could laugh at Ted and Marshall for partaking of all that marinated sub sandwich as a balance point.

It was genuinely heartbreaking when Barney finally broke things off with Nora, realizing during her father's speech that it's Robin he can't get out of his mind. But, as Robin told both Barney and Kevin, she's pretty messed up. And right now, she doesn't know why anyone would like her.

Until Robin learns to accept herself and love herself, she won't make the right decision for her, but the writers did such a great job with the twists and turns this week, that we now don't know again who that someone might be. While Barney seemed the inevitability, right now he's just the guy she's willing to cheat on Kevin with ... and then go back to Kevin. That's even more shallow than Barney Stinson.

However it ends, though, 'HIMYM' has proven itself a great show because we didn't laugh when Ted caught Barney picking up the rose petals from Robin's bed. We cared about him and we care about his happiness, no matter who it's with.

Alan's Worst Day Ever Bookended by Gary Busey on 'Two and a Half Men' (VIDEO)

If Alan thought losing his mind and thinking he was his brother Charlie was about as bad as it could get, he was in for quite a shock when he got out of the stress clinic loony bin on 'Two and a Half Men' (Mon., 9PM ET on CBS). While last week seemed to be a final tribute to Charlie Harper, this week was all about the show, and hopefully its audience, moving on and embracing this new situation.

This was done by showing Alan his worst possible life, only to thankfully awaken back in the stress clinic with roommate Gary Busey. Could you cast a better loony bin roomie than Busey?

In the real reality, though, things were still different when he got home, with Walden's redecoration and updates of the house complete. The last remnants of Charlie are gone now. This is the new 'Two and a Half Men,' and it looks like it's going to do just fine with audiences -- though maybe not the exact same audience makeup of the Charlie years.

'Housewives' Speak Up About Taylor Armstrong's Abusive Marriage (VIDEO)

When the women were all gathered at Lisa's for tea and gabbing on 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' (Mon., 9PM ET on Bravo), Taylor tried to usher in a new era of openness and honesty with one another. Of course, if that were ever to happen, Bravo wouldn't have a show, but it's nice to dream.

You just have to be careful what you dream for. And Taylor's call to put everything onto the table, and say whatever's on their minds directly to one another, led Camille to give her a warning.

"I don't think you want to put everything out there," she said. "Be careful with you saying that because we're all protecting you ... What you told us about your marriage ... We don't say that he hit you ... that he broke your jaw or that he beat you up."

If you want to have everything out in the open, you have to be prepared for everything to get out, though apparently some of the women are skeptical of Taylor's accounts of the situation in her marriage anyway.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Jerry Sandusky Tells Bob Costas: 'I Shouldn't Have Showered With Those Kids' (VIDEO)

Last night while ABC aired its exclusive interview with Gabrielle Giffords, NBC's 'Rock Center' aired its own exclusive as Bob Costas talked to former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky and his attorney. Discussing allegations against him of sexual abuse dating back to 1994, Sandusky -- who has been charged on a 40-count indictment -- protested his innocence.

The interview made for uncomfortable viewing at times, with Sandusky admitting that he had, at least, made some highly questionable choices in his interaction with children. When Costas asked if he was "completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?" Sandusky replied "I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their leg. Without," he added, "intent of sexual contact."

Watch the interview after the jump.

Sandusky denied any kind of sexual contact with young boys and explained away an accusation from graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary that he raped a 10 year-old boy in the shower as nothing but horseplay, saying that he and the boy were "maybe snapping a towel."

Meanwhile his attorney, Joseph Amendola, says he expects several alleged victims to now retract their accusations of abuse, including the victim in McQueary's allegations: "We have information that child says that never happened".

Sandusky told Costas that Penn State head coach Joe Paterno never spoke to him about his behavior, nor expressed disapproval of any kind. When asked how he feels about what's happened at Penn State, Sandusky said that while he doesn't feel culpable, he does "feel horrible. ... I've played a part in this."

He concluded, "I shouldn't have showered with those kids. That's what hits me the most."

Detailing the allegations against Sandusky, Costas said "If all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest, most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about." He continued, "Millions of Americans ... now regard you not only as a criminal ... but also as a monster."


Kelsey Grammer Returning to '30 Rock,' Megan Mullally Books 'Up All Night' & More Casting News

The Best Friends Gang is getting back together on '30 Rock.'

According to TV Guide, 'Boss' star Kelsey Grammer will return to '30 Rock' and reunite with Kenneth and Jenna for a scam. Grammer previously guest starred as himself in the Season 5 episode 'Reaganing.' In the Season 5 episode, the trio scammed Carvel.

The Season 6 episode will feature a bigger scam, Grammer told TV Guide. Look for the former 'Frasier' star to pants Pete (Scott Adsit).


NBC Announces 2012 Midseason Schedule

NBC is doing a big midseason shuffle, putting '30 Rock' in the 'Community' timeslot, a move that could spell the end for the quirky cult-hit comedy. What else is changing? Well, quite a bit.

'30 Rock' returns to the Peacock on Thurs., Jan. 12 at 8PM ET, knocking 'Community' off NBC's schedule completely. New drama 'The Firm' takes the Thursdays, 10PM ET slot now held by 'Prime Suspect' and 'Whitney' swaps time slots with 'Up All Night.'

'Smash' hits NBC on Mon., Feb. 6 at 10PM ET, moving 'Rock Center' to Wednesdays at 9PM ET. However, those aren't the only changes. Check out the full schedule below for all the details.

NBC made no mention of 'Community,' 'Prime Suspect,' 'Awake,' 'Bent,' Betty White's 'Off Their Rockers' or 'BFFs' in their announcement. Per Vulture: NBC says 'Community' will return to the schedule, but no date has been given.


Paula Deen Reflects On Her Long Road to TV Chef Stardom (VIDEO)

Paula Deen has come a long way since her lunch delivery service in Savannah, Georgia. She sat down with 'Early' (weekdays, 7AM ET on CBS) to talk about her career and new book called 'Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible.' Their first stop was Paula's restaurant, The Lady and Sons in Savannah. "It's my hope that when people sit down at these tables, they feel like they have slipped their feet back under their grandmother's table," Deen explained.

Lately, Deen has been getting some backlash for the high fat and salt content of her food. Earlier this year, chef and host of 'No Reservations' Anthony Bourdain said she was, "the most dangerous person to America." Rather than alter her recipes, Deen has advocated moderation in the frequency of eating southern cooking. "I don't do it seven days a week, but when I do, I do it," she said with a smile.

And Deen has a lot to smile about. Not only does she have her Food Network show "Paula's Home Cooking,' she also has a line of cookware, furniture and even a new clothing line. Rocking in a chair on her porch, she noted, "I sit here before you as living proof that the American Dream does still exist."


Max Can't Help Herself, Keeps Kissing Johnny on '2 Broke Girls' (VIDEO)

Just as life hasn't been easy for Max up until this point, neither is love going to be an easy path. And just because a guy is nice and charming and clearly into you, doesn't mean he's going to dump his girlfriend so he can be with you. Max learned that hard lesson this week on '2 Broke Girls' (Mon., 8:30PM ET on CBS).

Johnny keeps coming around, and Max is weak to his charms, but Johnny is apparently more than willing to keep Max on the side, and keep his girlfriend Cash as well. It's unclear whether Cash was aware of the situation, but she certainly dropped hints that she was.

Max's problem was that she fell pretty hard for Max and wanted to believe that he would do the right thing by making a choice. Instead, she had to make that choice in saying goodbye. She did learn, though, that Caroline is becoming a genuine friend to her, which appears to be something she's not used to. It looks like she's warming up to the idea, though, which has been fun to watch as the show continues to improve week-to-week.


Ray Thrown Out Naked for Cheating With Olympia Dukakis on 'Bored to Death' (VIDEO)

A little tip from this week's 'Bored to Death' (Mon., 9PM ET on HBO). If you're going to cheat on your significant other, try not to do it in the house you share with her. When Ray got caught cheating with an older woman -- Olympia Dukakis, no less -- he was thrown out of the house immediately.

Unfortunately for Ray, and the people out in the streets, he was in the middle of a bubble bath which "immediately" came down, and so he found himself running around outside wearing nothing but a swim cap. Luckily, George is there to help a friend in need, so Ray won't end up homeless. It also keeps him closer so he can continue going on wacky adventures with George and Jonathan, which is really what we're tuning in for every week.

This week's adventure saw Casey Wilson guest star as an old flame still interested in Jonathan, while her father, played by Rene Auberjonois, hires him to protect an expensive necklace. The case winds down rather predictably, but not before we get some fun flirting from Wilson and a great swordfighting scene between Jonathan, George and the jewel thief, who turns out to be Auberjonois trying to cash in on the insurance -- told you it was predictable.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Taylor Faces a Giant Lizard to Protect a Known Murderer on 'Terra Nova' (VIDEO)

For those who've been patient to stick with 'Terra Nova' (Mon., 8PM ET on FOX) through its awkward and meandering first several episodes, things are really starting to come together and get interesting. In fact, I dare say if this keeps up, we may be worrying about a second season pick-up come the inevitable cliffhanger finale in about a month.

This week, Taylor tracked the man who'd been banished from Terra Nova for murder, and implemented a brilliant espionage assignment. It could help earn the man entry back into the colony, but more importantly it could help Taylor find out who the spy is inside Terra Nova. That's a brilliant tactician taking advantage of a situation that was out of his control.

Taylor is a brave man, as seen when he faced down a gigantic lizard single-handedly, but he's also savvy and clever. Apparently, some of that genius he admitted his son has this week came from him. The idea that his son may have developed a way to talk to the future could well be a game-changer for Terra Nova. They'll just have to take on the Sixers, probably, to get their hands on it.


NBC Has Good News for 'Grimm,' Bad News for 'Prime Suspect'

The annual programming reshuffle known as the mideason schedule launch is in full swing at the major networks. Since NBC unveiled its new lineup yesterday there's been much speculation as to the fate of cult fave comedy 'Community,' struggling newbie drama 'Prime Suspect' and brand new fairytale drama 'Grimm.'

It seems as though the cast and crew at 'Grimm' can rest easy for now. Deadline reports that the fairytale-based procedural has received an order for additional scripts. That doesn't mean it's out of danger yet, but it should avoid the ax for now at least. However, 'Prime Suspect' is still most definitely on the dreaded bubble, with Deadline quoting one source as saying NBC execs are "considering our options." Gulp.

Meanwhile, 'Community' stars took to Twitter to vent their spleen about the benching of their show.

The 'Grimm' peeps have been through the wringer recently. First, the pre-launch critical reception was distinctly lukewarm. Then, NBC announced it was delaying the premiere, which meant it had an inauspicious start, unfortunately making its debut opposite the World Series. However, since then ratings have picked up and it seems as though the network will give it more time to find its feet.

While NBC execs -- who showed no mercy to stragglers like 'The Playboy Club' early on in the fall season -- have been widely reported as saying 'Prime Suspect' is also safe for now, it's conspicuously absent from the midseason lineup while fellow drama 'Harry's Law' has received a full series order and new series 'The Firm' has taken its coveted 10PM Thursday slot.

However, with planned midseason new drama 'Awake' reportedly in big trouble before it's even launched, and the fact that NBC placed an order for extra 'Prime Suspect' scripts as recently as last month, it seems like there's still a chance (albeit slim) that Maria Bello's trilby will get to see a second season.

The news that perennial bubble show 'Community' is absent from the midseason schedule prompted star Joel McHale to take to Twitter: "Horsebot 3000 Nooooo! RT @alisonbrie: Troy & Abed in the...Summer?? RT @danharmon: Streets Ahold! RT @neilskee Midseason schedule burn!"


New Game: Waterfalls 3

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Roo's your man

We'll pick 128 readers at random to enter our very own knock-out Xbox tournament, with the final 16 battling it out head-to-head in exclusive FIFA pods at The Sun's offices in London.

There we will crown our overall winner, who will participate in the 'House of Wayne' – another FIFA 12 tournament, this time with top Premier League stars.

And it's not just readers who have to qualify to reach that final stage – Premier League players are also facing-off to earn a berth, in a 'Pro Player Challenge'.

Already Arsenal stars have tackled each-other off the pitch, with poster-boy Jack Wilshere, winger Theo Walcott, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vying for a place in the finals.

Unsurprisingly, face of FIFA Wilshere came out on top of that battle, and will now take his place in the House of Wayne tournament.

He, like one lucky Sun reader, will get to take on Rooney – a self-confessed addict to FIFA 12.

Wayne Rooney
Come and have a go if Roo think you're hard enough...

Here, he lays down the gauntlet to would-be rivals on the virtual football pitch.

"The first thing I do after a game is go and play my Xbox. Especially after a night game, where it's difficult to sleep because the adrenaline is still going.

"When I was injured last season, I was on it a lot. I went 22 games unbeaten, playing online, until someone beat me 3-0. I was fuming. He beat me 3-0 in the rematch, too.

"I'm very competitive, I want to win. I've had a few arguments online. The worst thing is when you're winning online, and someone turns it off."

"Me and Rio played together on the last tour. Obviously we were Man United. We played 17, won 16 and drew one. The only draw was against Kiko Macheda and Nani, but we had already beaten them five times so must have taken our foot off the gas.

"Rio's not that good. To be fair, I carried him when we were doubles partners. Benty's not great either. Shaun Wright-Phillips is quite decent, but he's never off computers so he should be good.

"Joleon Lescott has improved a lot. He's been practicing since I beat him, so I think I'll have to take credit for that.

"I've never played against Jack. It'll be good to play against him to see what he's like.

"Wes Brown uses loads of tricks in the game. It's annoying, because I used to be his doubles partner. He'd be clean through on goal and then try a trick. It was so frustrating.

"I used to play as my own names, as 'Wazza10'. I was playing games and getting friend requests left, right and centre. It was interrupting the games because I was getting hundreds and hundreds of them. I had to change my online name, so I play now and nobody knows it's me.

"I'm looking forward to taking on all comers at the House of Wayne – and, of course, I fancy my chances of winning!"
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